A properly designed natural ventilation system allows fresh outside air to enter a large space through low-level inlet ventilators. As warm air rises, it exits through high-level ventilators at the top of the space. The large difference in height between the entry of fresh air and the exit of warm air through the atrium creates a buoyancy effect that draws air through the building. The upward airflow and circulation creates a cooler, more comfortable indoor environment and an ideal path for smoke extraction. Natural ventilation systems feature electric actuators and sophisticated controls, so this entire process is easily integrated into any building management system for climate control or fire protection.
There are many benefits to a natural ventilation system, which include:
- Lower building construction costs. Typically, naturally ventilated structures cost about 10 to 15 percent less to build than those with air conditioning.
- Lower building operating costs. Naturally ventilated buildings are generally less expensive to run than those with air conditioning. This can be attributed to a significant reduction in energy consumption, as well as lower maintenance costs due to the reduced complexity of natural ventilation products.
- Increased health and productivity. Surveys have shown that people prefer a work environment that has fresh air and natural daylight. Employees feel better and are more alert and productive in a naturally ventilated and climate controlled environment. Natural ventilation reduces the expense of mechanical climate control — including the need for additional electrical power— cuts the emissions of CO2 and other environmentally harmful elements and supports the goals of Architecture 2030.
- Better long-term investment. Buildings constructed according to environmentally sensitive principles are good long-term investments as environmental controls, legislation, and industry initiatives are likely to increase in the future.
- Life safety. Natural ventilation products provide passive smoke ventilation to improve air quality and visibility during an emergency. Proper ventilation allows occupants to get out safely and firefighters to get in quickly to do their job.
Natural ventilation systems are ideal for the atrium of any retail, corporate, or institutional building, or other large enclosed common area. Not only is smoke control mandatory in these situations, but the NFPA 92B fire protection standard also recognizes natural ventilation as a viable alternative for smoke control in large areas such as these.
The use of natural ventilation vividly demonstrates a commitment to green practices, reduced mechanical reliance and the creation of a more natural, environmentally friendly occupant experience. Buildings that incorporate natural ventilation can significantly reduce the demand for and costs associated with mechanical air handling equipment, an important consideration in meeting Architecture 2030 goals.